Warwickshire has a long literary history – we don’t need to tell you that! The county was the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Mary Ann Evans (aka George Eliot) and has in the past welcomed greats such as Charles Dickens, inspired poets such as John Betjeman and the recently best-selling Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. With all this in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to share some Warwickshire-tied reading recommendations with you.
Now, before we start, the titles featured here are just a fraction of the titles out there – we can’t get them all in one blog post so if we miss out a favourite of yours, we’re sorry! We’ve tried to pick some titles you might know already and few that maybe you aren’t aware of but there are many more out there to discover. You’ll find many on our library catalogue and in our BorrowBox collection and if Warwickshire local history is your thing, don’t forget to explore our Local Studies collections too.
My Perfect Sister by Penny Batchelor
Annie is 5 when her sister Gemma leaves for school and never returns. The family’s lives are changed forever with Gemma’s disappearance and Annie feels neglected and unloved. When she is just 16, she decides she can no longer live in the shadow of her perfect but absent sister and she leaves home, falling in and out of jobs and relationships, her resentment for Gemma always there, bubbling under the surface.
Many years later she returns home to care for her mother, ill with cancer. Her anger only grows when she sees Gemma’s room still kept as a shrine while hers is now her mother’s sewing room, but as she cares for her mum she begins to soften and egged on by her best friend Priti she realises she has to uncover what happened to Gemma, for all their sakes.
This is Penny’s debut domestic thriller, and her second, Her New Best Friend, is also available.
Killing Floor by Lee Child
Okay, we know that technically, Lee Child was born in Coventry but we’re still including him here. Killing Floor is the first novel featuring Jack Reacher and was first published in 1997.
A man hops off a greyhound bus in rural Georgia, America and winds up in jail accused of a crime he couldn’t possibly have committed. As the nasty secrets of a ruthless conspiracy leak out it becomes clear that he is just the fall guy.
You can read more about Lee Child’s life growing up in Coventry and Birmingham in The Reacher Guy: The Authorised Biography of Lee Child by Heather Martin.
From Shetland, With Love by Erin Green
When Jemima loses her beloved grandfather, keeping his allotment alive seems like ideal way to feel close to him. She’s never fitted in before – is this her chance to find where she really belongs?
Finally Melissa has the allotment she’s been longing for to distract her while her husband works away – even if it is chest-high in weeds. But when she looks for help in the wrong place, she finds she’s the hottest topic of gossip.
For Dottie, her allotment and part-time job of ‘a little light dusting’ at Lerwick Manor keeps a spring in her eighty-year-old step – and her ears open for secrets. Though generations apart, these three women are about to find a common bond in a new-found passion and that true friendship can grow anywhere.
The follow up, From Shetland, With Love at Christmas is also now available.
Journey To Paradise by Paula Greenlees
Singapore, 1949. When Miranda steps onto the pier with her husband Gerry she hopes that their move will bring the fresh start she needs and a chance to heal the scars from her past. Gerry’s role at the British foreign office affords them a beautiful house and invites the best parties in town. But their life feels worlds apart from England and true friends are hard to find.
When doctor Nick Wythenshaw encourages Miranda to work within the local community, she finds new purpose that opens her eyes to a new way of life. But as riots erupt across the region and danger draws close to home, Miranda must make an impossible choice. Will she sacrifice everything she holds dear to find happiness?
Three: A Tale of Brave Women and and the Eyam Plague by Jennifer Jenkins
In 1665 a box from London brought more than cloth from plague-ridden London to the quiet village of Eyam in Derbyshire. For the next year the villagers had to learn to live with a silent enemy.
‘Three’ tells the story of three very different women in their courageous attempts to keep themselves and their loved ones alive as Eyam closed its doors to the outside world, instead facing the malevolent danger alone. Emmott Syddall, Catherine Mompesson and Elizabeth Hancock were each determined to live and the courage each of them found was as unique as the women themselves. Will 1666 bring salvation?
The Metal Heart by Caroline Lea
Orkney, 1940. Five hundred Italian prisoners-of-war arrive to fortify these remote and windswept islands. Resentful islanders are fearful of the enemy in their midst, but not orphaned twin sisters Dorothy and Constance. Already outcasts, they volunteer to nurse all prisoners who are injured or fall sick. Soon Dorothy befriends Cesare, an artist swept up by the machine of war and almost broken by the horrors he has witnessed.
She is entranced by his plan to build an Italian chapel from war scrap and sea debris, and something beautiful begins to blossom. But Con, scarred from a betrayal in her past, is afraid for her sister; she knows that people are not always what they seem. Soon, trust frays between the islanders and outsiders, and between the sisters – their hearts torn by rival claims of duty and desire
The Undoing of Polly Button: The Tragic Life and Bloody Murder of Mary Green by Stephen Moore
In 1832, Mary Green (a.k.a. Polly Button) was brutally murdered by her lover John Danks in Nuneaton. Danks was tried, found guilty, hanged and then dissected. The two had one child together, and Polly was eight months pregnant with a second. So what precisely had caused their relationship to shatter and why was Danks set on a path to the gallows?
Referring to a wide range of original sources, fully indexed and with extensive use of illustration throughout, the tale of Polly Button’s tragic life and bloody demise is recounted in full and graphic detail. Labelled in contemporary press reports as ‘the victim of her own gross immorality’, the truth was found to be much more complicated, as the full tragedy of Polly Button’s ‘undoing’ is revealed.
Fighters: The Lives and Sad Deaths of Freddie Mills and Randolph Turpin by James Morton
James Morton investigates the deaths of Freddie Mills and Randolph Turpin – two boxers who died somewhat mysteriously in the 60s – and the story of boxing and society in the years before and after World War II. His research includes the persistent rumours that Mills was himself a murderer.
In July 1965 Freddie Mills, popular former light heavyweight champion of the world, was found shot in an alleyway off London’s Charing Cross Road. Was he murdered and if so by whom? Did he kill himself and if so why should this happily married man whose popularity was immense take his own life? A year later Britain’s second world champion of the era, the middleweight Randolph Turpin who defeated the fabulous Sugar Ray Robinson, was found shot dead in a room above his cafe in Leamington Spa. How did this man who earned thousands during his career come to end his life in a backstreet cafe? Or was he also murdered to prevent him getting the money due to him from his career?
Morton looks at the role of their managers and promoters and the relationship with the Boxing Board of Control. Should many of Mills’ fights and some of Turpin’s have been sanctioned? Is this in part what led to their deaths? Where did their money go? Gambling, women, protection? Is there any possible truth in the persistent rumours that Mills was the so-called Jack the Stripper murderer, the killer of prostitutes in Hammersmith?
The Promise of Summer by Bella Osborne
After years of dating losers, cheats and one guy who did something unrepeatable to her kettle, Ruby has all but given up on romance. But then a stranger sits next to her on a train to London and explains his plan to propose to the woman of his dreams. Maybe true love does exist after all? When the man accidentally leaves the engagement ring behind, Ruby is determined to save the day. But she hasn’t counted on fellow passenger Curtis stepping in and insisting he should be the one to track the stranger down. As summer closes in, the unlikely pair make a promise to reunite the ring with its owner. But can they find their own happy ever after along the way?
Bella’s new novel, The Library, is due out in January 2022.
Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas by Julia Rawlinson and illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
It is Christmas Eve and Fletcher lays sticks directing Santa to the rabbits’ new burrow.
But when it snows, he wonders how will Santa find them?
Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook by Celia Rees
Germany, 1946. A reluctant spy is born. Edith Graham has always flown under the radar. Working for years as a teacher in a girls’ school, she had a quiet war, sequestered away in the English countryside. But beneath her quiet exterior lies the heart of an adventurer. When a family friend asks her to interview for a position in the war office, Edith has no idea she is being recruited for something more, but leaps at the chance to do her bit.
Sent to Germany under the perfect cover story, she is soon sending crucial intelligence back to Britain under the innocuous guise of recipes collected for friends. But not everyone is convinced that Edith is simply a teacher, and the closer she gets to uncovering an underground Nazi network, the greater the danger she faces in a world where no one is quite what they seem to be.
Little Glow by Katie Sahota and illustrated by Harry Woodgate
This new picture book is written by Katie Sahota and is a rhyming celebration of hope, told through the eyes of an introverted lead character who observes the inspiring ways an inclusive community celebrates light through the year.
Kenilworth by Walter Scott
In the court of Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, is favoured above all the noblemen of England. It is rumoured that the Queen may chose him for her husband, but Leicester has secretly married the beautiful Amy Robsart. Fearing ruin if this were known, he keeps his lovely young wife a virtual prisoner in an old country house. Meanwhile Leicester’s manservant Varney has sinister designs on Amy, and enlists an alchemist to help him further his evil ambitions.
Brilliantly recreating the splendour and pageantry of Elizabethan England, with Shakespeare, Walter Ralegh and Elizabeth herself among its characters, Kenilworth (1821) is a compelling depiction of intrigue, power struggles and superstition in a bygone age.
Paranormal Warwickshire by S C Skillman
Paranormal Warwickshire takes the reader into the world of ghosts and spirits in the county, following their footsteps into the unknown. There are tales of haunted places, supernatural happenings and shadowy presences from locations throughout the county which will delight ghost hunters and fascinate and intrigue everybody who knows the buildings and stories featured in this book.
Mayfield by Graham Sutherland
In 1840 John Mayfield arrives in Warwick to take command of the new Police Force. Although anticipating opposition, he is surprised to find it coming from a prominent member of the Watch Committee. When a body is found, John is soon fighting to save his career and life. And he must choose between a young widow, and the wife of a man who is awaiting trial.
Part Two and Part Three are also available, along with a number of non-fiction titles written by Graham too, including Bloody British History: Warwick and Warwick in the Great War.
Mobile Library by David Whitehouse
Twelve-year-old Bobby Nusku is an archivist of his mother. He catalogues traces of her life and waits for her to return home. Bobby thinks that he’s been left to face the world alone until he meets lonely single mother Val and her daughter Rosa. They spend a magical summer together, discovering the books in the mobile library where Val works as a cleaner.
But as the summer draws to a close, Bobby finds himself in trouble and Val is in danger of losing her job. There’s only one thing to do – and so they take to the road in the mobile library.
We hope you have enjoyed that quick look at just a few of the titles with links to Warwickshire that are available in our libraries and in our BorrowBox collection. Don’t forget, you can find titles by authors such as George Eliot and William Shakespeare there too – if you fancy listening to one of Shakespeare’s plays, you’ll find many as eAudio titles on BorrowBox, while you can explore the George Eliot Collection here (transcripts of the letters in the collection are also available).
We know we will have missed some obvious authors and probably a few more that we didn’t know about either. If we’ve missed your favourite, let us know in the comments.
Happy Warwickshire reading!